The latest US report on human rights abuses outlines a worrying reality regarding government bribery and corruption in Romania. According to the US State Department’s 2021 report, the authorities did not have adequate systems to prevent and drastically sanction corruption practices, even though the law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials.
The US report, released on April 12, 2022, emphasised that throughout 2021, there have been several reports of government corruption, sometimes with impunity.
Romania’s executive summary
Romania is a democratic, multiparty parliamentary republic with a constitutional republic. The Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, both elected by popular vote, make up the bicameral parliament. The US State Department’s report mentions that the observers deemed the 2019 presidential and legislative elections in December 2020 to be mostly free and fair.
The General Inspectorate of the Romanian Police, the gendarmerie, border police, the General Directorate for Internal Protection, and the General Directorate for Anticorruption are all under the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The General Directorate for Internal Protection is in charge of gathering intelligence, counterintelligence, and detecting and combating vulnerabilities and hazards that threaten public order or Ministry of Internal Affairs operations.
The interior minister is in charge of the directorate: terrorism and national security concerns, the country’s domestic security organization. The Supreme Council of National Defense oversees the service. Civilian authorities effectively controlled the intelligence and security services reported to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. According to the report, there were credible reports of security forces members abusing their power.
Corruption and lack of transparency in the Romanian Government according to the US State Department report
Corruption by government personnel is punishable under the law. Nevertheless, corrupt practices remained widespread despite several high-profile prosecutions. The report mentions that there were numerous reports of government corruption throughout the year, some of which went unpunished.
Corruption and misappropriation of public funds were rampant. For example, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project published a report on October 13 alleging that the current mayor of Bucharest Section 3, Robert Negoita, funnelled 83 million euros ($95.5 million) in public funds to a network of offshore companies linked to his family between 2012 and 2014. In November, Dan Sova, a former Social Democratic Party senator and minister of transportation, was sentenced to four years in prison for influence peddling by the Bucharest Court of Appeal.
According to the National Anticorruption Directorate, the former minister earned 100,000 euros ($115,000) from a law firm between October 2011 and July 2014 to exert his influence over the director of a public corporation to sign various legal counselling contracts with the law firm. According to investigators, the public company allegedly paid the law firm more than 1.3 million lei ($307,000) due to the deal.
Bribery was prevalent in the public sector, particularly in the healthcare sector. Individual executive agencies were hesitant to enforce punishments, and their own inspection bodies were mostly dormant. Several investigations into procurement fraud related to acquiring personal protection equipment and ventilators were launched during the COVID-19 epidemic by the National Anticorruption Directorate. These probes are continuing.
On September 21, the National Anticorruption Directorate also launched an investigation of the potential misuse of public funds for the government’s decision to purchase 120 million doses of COVID vaccine for an adult population of approximately 14 million persons. The investigation was
ongoing and did not name any specific individuals.
This is not something new for Romania, to be mentioned in the US State Department’s reports, but it is certainly the worst report recently. Corruption is mentioned as a widely used practice both at the governmental level and in other fields and state institutions.
But both bribery and corruption represent the handicap of leadership in Romania. Despite the lawsuits and the protests of the citizens, corruption is part of a vicious circle. It is a disease that is difficult to remove, especially after it has persisted for years in the Romanian system.